Ask Amy: When Confidence Can Seem Like Arrogance

Dear Amy,

The thing I have been struggling with the most has been the misinterpretation of my intentions.  I am not in a position of authority within my family business at this time, however, it is known and recognized that that is my father’s plan. Our family business is in its 102nd year of business with 3 current partners. I am a potential successor along with my eldest cousin who became a partner as of last year and his brother who will begin the buy-in process as of the first of the year.  We will make up the 4th generation of owning the family business/farm.  As the youngest member of the 4th generation and only girl born after 10 boys, I will be the youngest partner and first woman to ever have had a stake in the company.

My parents raised me in a way to never doubt my capabilities. They pushed me to be strong, physically and mentally and I was never granted an excuse because I was “just a girl.” This mentality helped develop my confident and assertive nature. My spirited attitude, to put it nicely, and small stature often surprises people when we meet.

While some find me amusing, I struggle with certain family members or long standing employees confusing my ambition and confidence for wanting authority or power over them. I also know that my talent lies in office operations.  New ways to improve accuracy, increase effectiveness, and solving complications are always racing through my thoughts.  I am sometimes unable to shut my mind off to it and find myself researching solutions late into the night.

I know that my confidence can seem like arrogance, and that is what I’m trying to work on.  I am not always able to put into words the “racing” thoughts I have. I’m hoping for a new communication method that will help me present myself and my ideas more effectively. I know that I have a lot to learn about our industry yet and am certainly not perfect.

I apologize for the lengthy response!  And I thank you in advance for your guidance – I am excited to get started on this journey!


Dear Chloe,

What a thoughtful and insightful description of the challenges and opportunities ahead of you! And how wonderful that your parents have instilled such confidence in you and your abilities.

You are truly a pioneer. It will take some time for your male partners to appreciate your skills and to treat you as the competent and thoughtful leader you are prepared to be. The risk, as you know, is that you will be seen as “cute” or, to use your word, “amusing”.

I’ve written before about the importance of “executive presence”, and that will be something for you to work on, as it is for so many daughters.  But developing it requires a unique solution for each woman. Since you’ve mentioned your “racing thoughts” and your eagerness to “research solutions-in the middle of the night! -I’d start there.

Perhaps the best thing I can suggest to you right now is to slow down, way down.  Sometimes in their eagerness to prove their worth, daughters feel that they have to move quickly to demonstrate their value to the business.  As a result, they can come across as “always correcting” everything and/or as “out of touch” with the systems and processes that have helped the business achieve success over time.  So take the time to learn, to ask questions of long-term employees, and to show your respect for their work.

Another thing I’d suggest is to carefully and clearly let your partners know that you would like to focus on operations.  It’s great that you know where your interests are.  That will help you define your role, at least for awhile.  And in a partnership, that role definition is crucial.

So…slow down.  I find that sometimes even when I’m excited about something, my excitement can become a source of stress to me and to others.  You may find that

Amy Katz

meditation or deep breathing exercises a helpful way for you to slow down, take your time, and develop a bit more “gravitas”.  That will be an asset as you learn to convey your authority, calmly and confidently.

The good news is that you’re already aware of the impact of your behavior and your “presence”.  Now all you have to do is make that awareness work for you.  You’ll have lots of time to make a difference…”go slow to go fast”.



Ask Amy: Getting Married – Should You Change Your Name?

Dear Amy,

I am getting married in September and wish to change my last name … for me, I’m torn about what this means for me as I begin to take over my family’s business. I feel a little bit guilty about changing my name because this means people lose that instant recognition of who I am in relation to the company if my last name no longer matches the name on the building. Any stories about how other “daughters in charge” have handled this?




Dear Meredith,

I certainly respect your question and appreciate the implications of whatever choice you make. Here are a few thoughts based on my work with daughters who’ve had similar concerns. After marrying, some women who want to take on their husband’s name refer to themselves with their first name, then their family name, and then their married name.  Many women who want to preserve their family name for other reasons do this as well. It’s a pretty simple way to make sure that customers, clients, vendors, and others know that you are clearly part of the family business.

Other daughters change their name, without the family name evident, but the story of the family (usual on the “about” or “our team” sections of the website) makes it obvious that they are family members.

You may be concerned that you will lose credibility if you change your name, and I can understand that. I know some daughters who take their husband’s name legally, but in business situations continue to use their family name.  It can be confusing at times, but for the most part, this approach works well.

Amy Katz

I do know of a few daughters who find that they learn more about how customers and

clients view the business when they don’t know that they are family members. These daughters find it a great learning experience and discover new insights about the family business that they might never have learned before.

My suggestion is to do what feels right to you.  I doubt that it will hurt the business if you decide to take on your husband’s name. Your name matters, but your comfort and confidence matter more.

Hope this helps!



Ask Amy: Should You Go Into the Family Business?

Dear Amy,

I’m a sophomore in college, and I’m starting to think about my career. My parents are encouraging me to join the family business. My dad is president of a well-known real estate company that deals primarily in commercial properties across our region. I certainly know a lot about the business (my mother is in sales), and two of my cousins are telling me that it’s fun to work there. However, I’m finding that my interests are more in psychology than in real estate. Any suggestions?



Dear Ainsley,

Many daughters who grew up in family businesses are now considering working there.  If you’re building your career in your family’s business, you’ll want to be sure that your career interests line up well with the products or services the business offers. Having a psychology background can be a huge asset in many businesses; certainly sales and management depend upon an understanding of behavior and the ability to handle a variety of interpersonal situations.  You may fit in quite well in the real estate business, but you might also decide that you can take your interests and work other places, too.

In any case, here are a few ideas for you to consider as you start to develop your interests and career choices:

1. Consider working somewhere else first. Many parents are clear that their children should work somewhere else before joining the family business, while others feel it’s not necessary. What is necessary is that you feel satisfied and fulfilled and make a contribution wherever you work.  Many daughters in family businesses develop their own career paths and ask for assignments that require learning new skills, developing new relationships, mastering technology, and responding openly to critical feedback.  Whether the path is there or you create your own, your career depends upon learning.  And right now, you’re in a great place to develop that capacity.

2. Invest in assessments of your talents, skills, and interests. There are a number of objective assessments you can take, and/or psychologists and coaches you can work with who can help you determine the kinds of roles and work environments that fit your particular profile.  The more you understand about yourself, the better.  I’m sure that taking psychology classes will help with that. The good news is that colleges are now very focused on helping students develop careers and find jobs and learn to manage their anxieties and stress.  My suggestion would be to take advantage of the services available to you, even if they lead you in a direction you did not anticipate.

3. Consider several options. Though you may not believe it now, you may end up with a series of great jobs and never follow a clear career path.  You may have a revolving door relationship with your family’s business-in a few years, out for awhile, and back again.  Or, you may be an owner one day, but never actually work there. While I’m sure this is all quite overwhelming, I hope you’ll fully enjoy your experiences now, and build the self-confidence that will help you make good choices going forward.

Amy Katz

Hope this helps!



Ask Amy: Challenges of Working With Your Siblings

Dear Amy,

I am really struggling with my sister.  She’s two years older than I am, and thinks that because she has worked in our business longer than I have (I went to college and she did not), I should report to her.  I am not comfortable with this at all.  What are your thoughts about this?


Dear Elizabeth,

Through my coaching practice and podcasts, I’ve heard from several daughters about situations like yours.  Building a sibling team is not easy, but with some time, thought, and good intentions, I think it’s not only possible, but also very gratifying and fun.

Here are some of my thoughts and suggestions I’ve developed over the past few years.  I hope they’re helpful to you.

1. They’ve changed…and you’ve changed.  Siblings who work together after a period of separation (college, different jobs, etc.) may find that they need to become reacquainted with each other.  In fact, it’s probably important that you develop the mindset that working with your brother or sister will require you to step back and appreciate their unique talents and skills.  Just as you have learned from your experiences, so have they.  Take the time to explore who they are as adults.

2.  Respect their value to the business. You may have grown up with a younger brother who teased you all the time or drove you crazy, but he may be a talented engineer who makes a valuable contribution to the business.  He may still tease you, but don’t deny his ability to take on a project, manage a team, or create a great product design.  Hopefully, he’ll show you the same courtesy…and respect.

3.  Old conflicts will resurface.  Expect them to.  Our relationships with our siblings often require “rewiring” when we work with them.  If you’ve felt competitive with your sister, you’ll feel competitive at work.  Sometimes working in different parts of the business can help defuse old conflicts; having distinct roles can help as well.  Be patient with yourself if you find yourself overreacting at work. Sibling relationships often trigger feelings from long ago that can be difficult to manage. On the other hand, you may find that a sibling can be a great source of support.

4.  New conflicts will emerge.  Now that you are adults, it’s very likely that your siblings have spouses and in laws who may want to work in the business.  Or, you and a sibling may find that you’re both in conflict with a parent who is unwilling to face the need for succession planning.  If the business is a family enterprise, you may want to suggest forming a family council, where each person can find his/her place and difficult conflicts among family members can be addressed and hopefully, resolved.

5.  Your teamwork will have a positive and important impact on business results. Sibling teams that work well can be a lot of fun and a source of support for everyone.  Employees will appreciate your camaraderie, and feel less concerned about business transitions.  Some families engage a non-family CEO to help siblings navigate their relationships. Hiring an outsider is expensive, but overall, it may be worth it for the business and for your family.

6. Form positive relationships with your nieces and nephews.  Your siblings’ children may be in kindergarten now, but they will grow up…and they may end up working for you! Or you may work for them!  By working in the business, you’ll serve as a wonderful example to them of how a woman can be a strong and effective leader, as well as a generous and thoughtful aunt.  Of course, even if they don’t join the business, your connection with them will setting the stage for positive relationships that will undoubtedly affect the business over time.

7. Prepare for succession planning.  You and your siblings will likely become owners at some point. It’s an important role for each and all of you.  You’ll make decisions together, enjoy the benefits of business success, and address business concerns as they arise. Practice listening to your siblings now.  Try not to interrupt. Respect their points of view.  The way you relate to each other now will have a significant impact on all of you going forward.

Amy Katz

Hope this helps!



Ask Amy: Taking Over for Two Parents

Dear Amy,

My father started our business when I was very young, and my parents have run it together for the last 25 years. I could take over in my mother’s role any day now with little difficulty. My father is a typical “workaholic” and I anticipated that I would have at least another year before we started to figure out what my future role in the company will be. It is obvious that I will need to take on some of his responsibilities and we will have to hire other people to help fill his role. I just found out that he would like to start a partial retirement this summer. Wow! Okay, this means this is all happening a lot sooner than I anticipated. Any tips from other daughters taking over for more than one parent in their family business? I feel like I have not just one set of shoes to fill, but two.

– Sarah


Dear “Sarah,

A lot is happening sooner than expected, but what a nice tribute to you and to your leadership talents! It’s great that your dad will be available to you during this transition time.  I suspect that given his commitment to work, the definition of “partial” may mean that he’ll work what other people would consider full-time!

That being said, leaders do have to be prepared for surprise, and possess the confidence to take on whatever comes their way. I like the idea that despite the “wow” factor, you sound ready for the challenge.  And the fact that your dad will be by your side, at least “partially”, is a good sign that you’ll have a chance to ask questions and ask for help when you need it.  Some daughters take over when a parent dies unexpectedly, or when the business is in some kind of crisis.  Your situation, while a surprise, sounds pretty healthy to me.

However, leadership transitions are disruptive, and sometimes the presence of a father working in a business when a daughter is taking over leads to confusion about who’s in charge, who makes what decisions, etc.  So I would recommend that you and your parents take some time to develop a transition plan for the next year.

The plan can include a strategic focus, as a well as a practical one. A leadership transition provides a good opportunity to envision what opportunities lie ahead, and how the business might be restructured to meet those needs.  It may be that the “shoes” you’re planning to fill may not really “fit” the business they way they used to.  Or, if they do, then you may need to make some adjustments (stretching comes to mind!) until you feel comfortable in them.

Amy KatzI suspect that you’re more prepared than you may feel right now.  You sound excited and up for this new opportunity. Like your parents, you and your fiancé will have the opportunity to work together, and your parents have provided you with a great model of a partnership that works.

I wish you all the best with the major life changes you’ll be experiencing.  I have the feeling that you, your parents, and the business will continue to thrive!



Ask Amy: How can dad help?


Dear Amy,

My daughter told me about Daughters in Charge, so I decided to ask you a question myself. She has many leadership strengths, and I want to do a good job of developing opportunities so that she can take over. So here’s my question: How can dads help their daughters become leaders in the family business?

-An interested dad


Dear “Dad”,

I love your question! You didn’t give me many specifics, so here’s a general summary of ideas that I hope you’ll find helpful:

  1. Amy KatzRecognize that she will be viewed as a leader, no matter what her role is. Your children will be a source of curiosity for your employees, and their actions will be scrutinized. Your employees will likely assume that one of them will eventually take over. It is still difficult for women to gain respect for their leadership skills. You can set a great example by respecting her point of view, challenging her when needed, and giving her responsibilities that directly impact business results.
  1. Decide how you would like her to refer to you at work. Some fathers instruct their daughters to call them by their first name at work, and “dad” outside of work. Figure out what’s best for the two of you. There’s no real right or wrong here, but many father/daughter pairs find it easier to use first names at work. It can help to set a boundary between work and home.
  1. Encourage her to learn all aspects of the business, from equipment to finances. This can be a great credibility builder for your daughter. Make sure she spends time learning from your employees and interviewing them about their roles, their careers, and their ideas about the company. Ask her for her impressions, and listen to them. It’s likely that she’s heard some things that are worth your attention.
  1. If possible, have her report to someone else, preferably a non-family leader. It can be very difficult to give feedback to your daughter, and for her to receive it from you. Respect that she and her manager will develop a working relationship without your interference.
  1. Invest in objective assessments of her personality and skills. You may have no idea about your daughter’s strengths in work setting and/or areas where development is needed. Consider encouraging her to talk with an organizational psychologist or an executive coach. If your daughter is going to be a leader in the business, the more she understands about herself and others, the better.
  1. Include her in as many meetings as possible, but give her a role to play. Daughters like to be included, but they also like to feel they are making a contribution. Encourage her to ask questions if she needs to, and also to assert her own ideas. Talk together about how you will handle disagreements. Make sure she understands that developing the ability to influence requires respect for alternate viewpoints.
  1. Check your assumptions about your daughter at the business door. The daughter you raised is no longer a child or an adolescent. Just because she didn’t handle her allowance well doesn’t mean that she can’t develop and manage a budget. Like many people, her behavior at a workplace may be quite different from her behavior at home. Resist the temptation to tell stories about her as a child. Allow her to be an adult at work.
  1. Give her increasing responsibility…only when she earns it. You do not want your daughter to be viewed as “daddy’s girl”, with special privileges. On the other hand, don’t go overboard in the other direction and limit her opportunities for growth because you’re afraid of showing favoritism.
  1. Pay attention when she suggests opportunities for innovation. Family businesses can be insular and so tied to the past that they ignore or deny the need for change. Your daughter is likely to have friends working in other settings and to understand new ways of doing business. Be open to her influence.
  1. Begin discussions of succession planning as early as possible. There’s a phrase emerging now about “sticky batons”, which refers to the difficulty parents have in letting go of leadership. You may not be close to retirement, but it’s important to prepare your daughters and sons for succession. You don’t have to make any commitments, but succession involves a set of strategic decisions about the business and about your family. It’s important to start early.

Again, thanks for the great question!